It’s the world’s most popular beer, but lager wasn’t always the refreshing golden drink it is today. In my new book, A Brief History of Lager: 500 Years of the World's Favourite Beer, I look at the social and cultural story of how lager became the most drunk alcohol in the world.
The story starts underground in cold beer cellars in North Bavaria. It's there that around 500 years ago the unique conditions needed to create what we now call lager were combined. From there we’ll learn about the Reinheitsgebot beer purity law. We'll meet some monks and kings. We’ll see some beer riots. We’ll go to Oktoberfest. We’ll learn how the production of lager created beer gardens, how Bavarian breweries built Beer Palaces, and we'll drink some great Dunkel and Helles lagers.
Then we’ll meet the Great Grandfathers of Lager. Not just four old dudes but four of the world’s most important brewers (helped by a wide supporting cast) who modernised lager production in the 19th century and developed a more consistent and more delicious-tasting beer via industrialisation, industrial espionage, revenge, refrigeration, some genius scientists, and the rudest man in Bohemia.
From there we follow German emigres as they settle in North America. Thirsty for the taste of home, they start to brew and they changed the drinking culture of an entire country, arguably pioneering the archetype of lagers that we’re so familiar with today, supersizing the industry and turning lager from dark to light to Lite.
Into the 20th century and it’s the story of how the world became lager drinkers (thanks mostly to a Dutch brewery) but how it took British drinkers way longer than anyone else to finally start drinking lager (despite a Victorian fad for lagers). We'll see how post-war domestic and social changes had a huge impact on consumer habits, with home refrigeration, car ownership, growth in supermarkets and the emergence of television and mass-marketing all having significant impact. We'll also explore some of the world's more varied and localised lager drinking cultures via Mexico City taquerias, Tokyo izakaya and Hanoian bia hois.
Finally we look at the future of lager and what craft brewers are doing with lager, whether it’s renewing old lager brewing traditions or making up new rules.
A Brief History of Lager looks at how lager became the world’s favourite drink. It focuses on the social and cultural aspect of lager and explores why it was specifically a light, simple, fizzy drink which was able to become what the world now sees as simply ‘beer.’